Bears LB Briggs out for preseason finale against Cleveland, should return for opener

Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs will not play in Thursday's preseason finale against the Cleveland Browns because of a sprained right ankle.

Coach Lovie Smith said Monday that he anticipates the five-time Pro Bowler will be available for the season-opener against Detroit next week.

Briggs was injured in Saturday's 14-9 preseason loss to the Arizona Cardinals. If a question exists about Briggs' availability, linebacker Nick Roach said most players are interchangeable at the position and there is good depth.

"We all can play each position, but I'm sure Lance will be good to go," said Roach, who also missed practice as he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery.

Both Briggs and linebacker Brian Urlacher declined comment on their health situations. Briggs quickly walked off the practice field with a noticeable limp.

Urlacher missed the Cardinals game and all of the previous week's practices with a left calf strain, but on Monday practiced for the first time since his Aug. 21 injury.

A few other players returned from injuries to practice. Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie returned from a shoulder sprain and safety Josh Bullocks (quad strain). Rookie safety Major Wright continued doing all non-contact work following surgery to repair a broken finger.

Back also for the first time since the first week of training camp was wide receiver Earl Bennett, who had been suffering from a pulled hamstring and has dropped down the depth chart to third string.

"My whole time in college I never really had an injury that held me out this long," said Bennett, who made 54 catches for 717 yards last year. "It's been very tough, but I've just got to stay mentally tough."

The Bears' offense looked like it could use an extra hand or two in Saturday's loss, when quarterback Jay Cutler took four sacks and threw two interceptions. Players stood up for blame Monday.

"We were messing up on simple things," tight end Desmond Clark said. "The play's going left and a guy goes right. Just simple things that were lack of focus, lack of concentration. Whatever it is, we'll be able to play through those things and be ready for Detroit."

Wide receiver Devin Aromashodu called the problems more the result of trying to learn a new offense.

"It's just that (with) it being a new offense, everyone is learning," Aromashodu said. "So there might be two people making a mistake on one play instead of there being one person."

The defense also failed escape scrutiny.

"It's the same thing every week: third down," cornerback Zack Bowman said. "That's one thing that really sticks out to us. It's not the third-and-shorts. It's the third-and-longs that we've got to get off the field on. So that's our focus."

The defense has allowed first downs on 21-of-46 preseason third downs (46 percent). It's been a problem area since last regular season when the Bears finished 27th at stopping third downs (41 percent).

"There's no quick fix or anything for it," Smith said. "In the preseason, you look at a lot of different things. In the preseason, we put guys in situations we won't normally do during the regular season.

"We've had a lot of third-and-longs. If we get (offenses) into those third-and-longs during the course of the regular season, we'll be in good shape."